by Rep. Lamar Smith
Technology has advanced civilizations throughout history. Even in ancient civilizations, such as during the Bronze Age, technological innovation improved the quality of life for millions of people around the world. More recently, innovations have continued at increased speed. For instance, important technologies have led to lifesaving medical cures and affordable energy through hydraulic fracturing.
Technological innovation takes many forms in many fields of science. One area that needs more focus is climate change. As the climate continues to change, as it always has, we should look to technology to solve possible problems. These technologies could help us both mitigate challenges and adapt to our ever-evolving world.
This opinion is shared by some of the world’s brightest minds. The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute recently wrote, “Technology and innovation, rather than sweeping federal mandates, offer the best approach for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the impacts of climate change.” Likewise, Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, one of the most successful technology companies in history, has pushed for a greater focus on technology solutions. In 2016, Mr. Gates launched a new private sector technology fund with an initial investment of $1 billion.
We should celebrate this type of thinking and these actions. For too long, the government has tried to use mandatory regulations to address climate change. The previous administration proposed extensive climate regulations like the Clean Power Plan, which would have driven up basic living costs for all Americans. And its impact on climate change was negligible. The plan would have reduced global temperatures by only 0.03 degrees Celsius and reduced sea level rise by the thickness of three sheets of paper.
The Paris Climate Accord, which incorporated environmental pledges from countries around the world, failed to meet any type of arbitrary climate goal. An analysis by Bjorn Lomborg, the former director of Denmark’s Environmental Assessment Institute and advocate for long-term climate solutions, found that the Accord would only reduce global temps up to 0.17 degrees Celsius by 2100!
Another area of research that has been overlooked for too long is geoengineering. This concept involves using technology to make positive changes in our atmosphere. While this subject is at the basic research phase, many concepts are groundbreaking and warrant further investigation. One such area of research is solar radiation management, which involves slightly altering the amount of sunlight that penetrates and warms the earth. Another concept, greenhouse gas reduction, involves altering the makeup of gases in our atmosphere to ensure that levels remain safe.
In November, the Science Committee held a hearing on the topic of geoengineering with government, academic, think tank, and industry witnesses. During the hearing, experts commented on the potential power of these innovative concepts and advocated further research. While we do not yet know if these concepts will work, we should explore them further and encourage the innovative minds that are using technology to find solutions.
By focusing our resources on basic research, we can find solutions that meet our needs. America is home to some of the best scientists and greatest scientific facilities in the world. Supporting our scientists with adequate resources for technology innovation will unlock ideas and concepts that can be employed by private industry. Broad, burdensome, ineffective government regulations are not, and never will be, the solution.
As in the past, by letting technology lead the way, Americans will reap the benefits and enjoy a better quality of life.